Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Divorce - Without Lawyers - Part 3

The tricky part about saving $20,000 or more on divorce lawyers is that if one of you gets an attorney, and that attorney gets half of the couple all riled up, then it is hard not to fight back. Here is my recommendation.

Get a trusted friend, pastor, or other party respected by both partners involved. This individual will be the outside mediator. The things you want to agree to are as follows:

1. Cooling off period. At least 30 days of separation. Maybe even 6 months. No social contact, no dating each other, no sex. Stay away from each other so there can be some healing. This also means no yelling, no crying, no mind games, and no manipulation. If you feel like doing any of those things, call the mediator or your personal counselor.

2. Both partners need to be in individual counseling. You're marriage is not falling apart because one of you has a problem. It is falling apart because of dynamics that may include serious emotional or other problems for both individuals. You want to get your act together so that whatever course you take, you are better prepared to deal with your future.

3. Do NOT fight over the kids. Agree to some reasonable method of sharing their time and the responsibilities of parenting. Do not compete for their love. Do not put down your spouse. It just makes you look bad.

4. If at all possible, and after some cooling off, try to make a commitment to save the marriage. Almost every study shows that even the worst marital situations can be improved, and that 5 years later, both spouses and children are far better off if the marriage is saved.

5. If you can do the above, or even most of the above, sit down after 30 days, and draw up a separation agreement with your mediator helping. If the marriage doesn't make it, how would you split the assets? How would you deal with the kids needs? Who would contribute how much to child or spousal support?

6. Once you have accomplished number 5, it is very likely that you can continue with a 6 month trial separation. At the end of that 6 months things will probably be a lot more clear. You might choose to proceed. You might choose to get back together. You might choose to continue the separation. But it will likely be done much more calmly, and thus, much more wisely.


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